Insights

Talking to Terrorists

Guest post from Oliver Taylor, IMSL analyst. The recent abduction of school girls by Boko Haram has bought the issue of government negotiating with terrorists back into the media spotlight. The usual line trotted out by governments is ‘we do not negotiate with terrorists’. To do so is often seen to reward the use of terrorism…

Intelligence Responses to Global Terrorism – 110 Years Ago

Sometimes the view of our society’s challenges when facing terrorism is that they are immediate and new, demanding innovative responses in terms of intelligence, legal structures, international processes, approaches and technologies.   But we forget that frankly terrorism is not new.  Nor are responses to it.  During the period of roughly 1880-1914, and particularly in…

Intelligence: Art or Science?

I’ve been considering some aspects of the academic study of social psychology, prompted by reading Daniel Kahnemann’s book “Thinking Fast and Slow” which I’ve blogged about previously and still recommend.  There are, in my mind, useful links between social psychology and, in very general terms, the profession of intelligence.  Both purport, in part, to investigate…

Spiritualism, Weather-forecasting and Intelligence Analysis

The relationship between the intelligence analyst and the consumer of intelligence is a peculiar one.  As we’ve discussed many times before the human instinct for narrative is both a danger to that relationship but also a useful tool. It’s dangerous because both the analyst and the consumer will believe bad intelligence if it is presented…

What a Cult

I was doing a little idle research for another project on “religious cults” and came across this characterisation: 1. Leaders who are or attempt to be inspirational 2. Leaders who are authoritarian and demand their orders are carried out. 3. The group displays excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to its leader 3. An atmosphere of detailed…

Never the Twain…

In his last post A Stack of Chewy Bacon Roger highlighted some Francis Bacon quotes that were applicable to the Intelligence game.  Here are some of my favourite Quotemeister’s (Mark Twain) offerings that you may find equally apposite: Get your facts first, then you can distort them as you please. It is better to keep your…

A Stack of Chewy Bacon

I’m preparing a further complex blog piece about Francis Bacon’s cipher/code system (building on earlier posts). As part of the work I’ve been doing some more digging on Francis Bacon himself and found a series of quotes from him that are perfect for the intelligence game. If it wasn’t so corny I’d hang them up…

The Wicked Witch, the Handsome Prince and the Missing Plane

“How fairy tales get in the way of intelligence analysis”    The human need for narrative plots overwhelms the reality of life. Intelligence analysts, by culture, upbringing and demand from the consumer, often present interpretation of events by means of a narrative plot.  This is a human trait but one which significantly affects the intelligence…

Cognitive Bias in the Consumer of Intelligence

Panjandrum’s excellent post on the nature of some consumers of intelligence prompts me to think again about cognitive biases but from a different perspective. In earlier posts I focused on the cognitive biases of the analyst, but perhaps I was missing the point. Perhaps the cognitive biases of the consumer of intelligence is where we…

Intelligence Analysis, Chimps & Hammers

There’s an old adage that states that “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. It’s sometimes known as ‘Maslow’s Hammer’ or ‘the Law of the Instrument’, but perhaps the most entertaining variant is the use of the term “Birmingham Screwdriver” to describe a sledge-hammer. Sure enough, if you’ve just spent the…